Whatever bits of spare time I thought I had have been taken up by biking and sewing, both of which I’ve been doing quite a bit more. It is merely exhausting pulling my trailer of 100 or so pounds (kids, books, backpacks, groceries) and by the time I get home it’s time to start dinner or finish the dishes or collapse on the bed and wish for a second wife in the family while I wait for my husband to rescue me from some of my work.
Yesterday Nels, E., and I biked down to the bus station to catch a bus to Aberdeen. We shopped for groceries at Safeway (the kids chose a car-like kid cart and were endlessly amused when I’d “drive” it crazily or recklessly) and packed half of the food into my backpack, half into one of those heinous plastic bags that cuts your palm to ribbon as you procced to walk across town. Physically carting one’s own food around town definitely self-moderates any extra purchasing one might be tempted to do; however I can’t bear the annoying extra expense of buying organic milk by the half-gallon.
After the grocery store we visited the local fabric shop for a bit; on next door where I sipped coffee in a cafe – the two children playing perfectly at an adjacent table – before walking the remaining seven blocks to E.s uptown school. The two little ones held up great and just before we got to the school we sat on a bench to have a snack and rest up. The walk and bus ride back home with Nels was less pleasant; I am prone to car sickness and it seems the bus system, already not without problems, hasn’t quite learned to cope with our bridge detour. The result was an extra and unexpected (for me and several other passengers) three mile delay when I was already about to puke my guts. I grimly held on as Nels gamboled about in the backseat flirting with all who came into eye- or earshot. I was never happier to see the station and our locked- up bike apparatus as when I shakily stumbled off the bus and held my breath from the diesel fumes.
I have started to believe that Grays Harbor Transit is underdesigned and largely ignored by those who have the time and influence to improve it. For instance at last week’s HBA meeting there was an anecdotal story about the bus system working well despite our detour – “working well” has not been my experience – and the conversation quickly turned as if we’d merely discussed an quaint irregularity; I’d wager not one other person at this meeting actually uses the system with any frequency. The schedule and routes don’t seem to be built for commuting but rather for those who have no motorized means of transportation and are at the mercy of such a system. In my several times a week riding I do not observe daily white-collar commuters (my husband rides the bus an average of two days a week and reports the same) and I have never seen another white, middle/upper class mum on board. People I do see on the bus: the sick, elderly, morbidly obese, or suffering riding up the hill for medical treatment, those in drug or alcohol counseling programs, those working blue-collar jobs, users with fallen-in mouths, hooded eyes, and dubious personal hygiene, near-silent Latina women and their small children. I have overheard many, many stories of drug use, treatment, and court (in fact, one woman sitting by me yesterday became agitated at the unexpected delay as she was required to be in court at a certain time). I have seen people with plastic bags of their own clothes or cheap Walmart goods huddled in their seat and scarfing food down, their skin tone poor and their eyes tired. People trading stories of methadone, roomates who’ve ripped them off; last week a woman asking another casually, “What are you then? An alcoholic or something?” as if inquiring about a fraternal organization. I feel like an anomoly on the bus.
In any case it doesn’t make sense, I suppose, for the bus system to improve. Even with gas prices rising as they are people are still freely choosing driving as a means of transport. Neither are many carpooling; in my biking about town I’ve taken to counting cars and have found over 80% of car trips to be passenger-free.
Other perils of bussing and biking; I went so long without driving our van that a tiny, tiny light left on managed to drain the battery over the period of three days. Whoops!